The word Clutch gets thrown around very often. LeBron James is not a clutch player gets thrown around often. He’s not clutch like Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony or Kobe Bryant. I don’t think people understand what clutch is exactly. Clutch is not hitting a buzzer beater. Clutch is not being horrible for most of the game and then you happen to hit the final shot. Clutch is actually a stat that is tracked.
According to NBA.com Clutch stats are for the final 5 minutes of the game. You can look at the clutch numbers if a player is ahead, behind or tied and within five points or less. If you want you can dive into the last 2 minutes, 30 seconds or last 10 seconds. People who debate clutch only seem to factor in the final shot. If you don’t take and make the final shot than you are not clutch.
One player can take the final shot over and over again and miss a large majority of them. That doesn’t mean they aren’t clutch but they just missed the final shot. A player can score 10 points in a row to get their team within 1 but miss the final shot and he’s not considered clutch.
I looked at the total stats instead of the per game numbers. These are the clutch leaders during the last 5 minutes, ahead or behind and within 5 points or less for the 2012-13 season:
Player A – 42 games, 154 points, 29 rebounds, 17 assists, 42.5% FG, 35.5% 3pt and 106 shots
Player B – 37 games, 154 points, 28 rebounds, 9 assists, 39.2% FG, 35.7 % 3pt and 97 shots
Player C – 35 games, 145 points, 15 rebounds, 18 assists, 46.7% FG, 30.0% 3pt and 105 shots
Player D – 35 games, 130 points, 51 rebounds, 50 assists, 44.2% FG, 28.0% 3pt and 95 shots
Player E – 42 games, 130 points, 25 rebounds, 16 assists, 40.2% FG, 28.0% 3pt and 82 shots
Player A is Kobe Bryant, not a surprise since he usually has the ball in his hands at the end of the game. Player B is Kevin Durant, his shooting was slightly down late in games but he still put up good clutch numbers. Player C is Kyrie Irving, he was good in the clutch but his +/- happens to be -20 because the Cavs would lose close games. Player D is the non-clutch LeBron James; I guess he does other things besides score late in games. Player E is James Harden and that’s no surprise because he is the playmaker for the Rockets.
Again those are total numbers for the final 5 minutes, ahead or behind and within 5 points. Clutch can be looked at in different ways. Carmelo Anthony a clutch player in my book only scored 83 points in this situation. Does that mean Carmelo is not clutch, NO it just means he didn’t score as much during this situation.
Here’s a look at the clutch leaders from 2013-14:
Player A – 43 games, 167 points, 38 rebounds, 10 assists, 37.9% FG, 38.5% 3pt and 132 shots
Player B – 41 games, 157 points, 36 rebounds, 20 assists, 48.4% FG, 31.0% 3pt and 95 shots
Player C – 47 games, 151 points, 23 rebounds, 22 assists, 44.9% FG, 54.5% 3pt and 98 shots
Player D – 35 games, 151 points, 10 rebounds, 22 assists, 37.6% FG, 35.5% 3pt and 117 shots
Player E – 46 games, 148 points, 19 rebounds, 17 assists, 47.3% FG, 44.2% 3pt and 91 shots.
With Kobe out, Kevin Durant moved into the number 1 scoring spot during the clutch. His shooting was still below league average of 40% in this situation but compared to last season he took a lot more shots. Player B is LeBron James and in this past season he scored more in the clutch. It’s interesting that he took the same amount of shots but his average went up slightly. Player C is a surprise and that’s Monta Ellis. He was very good in the clutch for Dallas and was lights out from beyond the arc late in the game. Kyrie Irving makes the list again but again he’s the lone member in the top 5 with a negative +/- because his team did not make the playoffs. Last on the list is Damian Lillard. We seen how clutch he could be in the playoffs.
In terms of points Lillard is fifth but if you look at his TS %( True Shooting Percentage) which is 65%, higher than LeBron’s 63% and his EFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage) of 57% which is also higher than LeBron’s 53%, Lillard is arguably the most clutch player in the game. I mentioned LeBron because he led the league in EFG% and TS% for players that took over 600 shots in the regular season.
Aside from points Lillard is ahead of Kevin Durant in clutch games played, FG%, FT%, TS% and EFG%. With that said I’m pretty sure the majority of people would still want Kevin Durant with the ball in his hands over Lillard in “clutch” time.
In terms of total points Carmelo Anthony is behind John Wall, Stephen Curry and even Kemba Walker. Does that mean Carmelo is not as clutch because he doesn’t have more total points? No I would still want the ball in Carmelo's hands late in the game. On a per game basis Carmelo is in the top 5 of scoring in the clutch.
So before you throw the clutch word out there if LeBron passes up a shot or if Andre Iguodala knocks down a buzzer beater, remember there are other factors into being a clutch player. Clutch is not the final the shot, it is a series of plays in the final minutes of a game.